Today I have an interesting new device to review, it costs $400 and lets you read any book wherever you want to. It helps to reduce eye strain from reading off a computer screen and is super portable. The device is called a BeBook. (http://mybebook.com/p5/ereader-bebook/product_info.html)
Keep reading for more information
The BeBook is the size of a novel and only 1cm thick, it has 512mb of internal memory that will allow you to store over 1000 books. Based on my calculations, the standard Terry Pratchett book is around 500kb in size, this would allow you to fit almost 1050 books on the device (these are good length novels we’re talking about here). If 512mb isn’t enough for you, you can also insert SD Cards (anything upto 4gb is supported).
It includes its own proprietary battery that is capable of 7000 page turns, they measure the battery life in page turns as the screen only uses power when it’s changing. This also means that when you’re finished reading you simply close the case without even turning it off, you can then pick it back up and continue reading from where you left off. To charge the battery you simply plug it into the USB port of your computer.
The screen is called an E-Ink screen, it is non backlit and will work very well in the sun (unlike laptop screens that become almost impossible to use in sunlight) and is Black and White only. The idea behind the screen is that once it has set all the pixels, it doesn’t have to do anything to keep them that way so even if you take the battery out of it, it will just stay on the screen. Click here for more information on how the E-Ink screen works. (http://mybebook.com/a5/Epaper/article_info.html) One of the issues with the screen is that it does take 0.5 to 1 second to update the page, while it is quicker than turning a page of a real book, it does get a little annoying.
When I bought it, it took about 2 weeks to arrive from the Netherlands which is quite a while compared to other international orders I’ve placed, but not too bad. One thing that irked me was that they had a deal going where if you use the email address of someone else who had ordered one, you could get a $25 discount (and if you could get 10 people to use the same address, you would get a free one). I emailed them about it a couple times but they didn’t reply and the information about it on the website seems to have disappeared (unfortunate really, I would’ve liked a little bit of cash back).
It cost me $444 (that’s $399 for the reader and $45 for shipping) which is actually quite expensive considering you can buy an EeePC laptop for as low as $249 and that includes a colour screen and will let you run any applications you like on it. The main selling point behind the BeBook is that it has near limitless battery life (unless you’re a heavy reader, you’ll never actually use up the battery).
The BeBook comes with the BeBook unit, a paper manual, headphones, lanyard, battery, USB cable and a lovely leather case. One thing that really disappointed me however was that when I got the unit, it had a sticker over the screen telling me to plug it into the computer to charge it before use, not only did I ignore it (hey, it works fine, no harm done) but getting the sticker off required A LOT of effort. It was stuck down really hard and felt as if I was going to tear the screen right off just trying to get this sticker off the screen. It took 15 minutes of gruelling slowly peeling it away to get it off and when it was done there was bits of sticky goop left on the screen. Thankfully, I used some Goo Remover (Citrus based) to remove the crap off the screen without any damage.
Using the Device
I plugged the device into the computer with the supplied USB cable and it asked me if I wanted to charge the unit or mount it, this seemed quite polite as there are times when you don’t want to mount something as a drive on your computer and you just want to charge it (iPods anyone?). I do like very much that it doesn’t require any specific software for it, you simply copy the files over to it as if it were a USB Flash Drive. Sadly, it got worse from there on.
The USB connection seemed very flaky, using my Mac I would try to make a folder on it and it would take 30 seconds or so to do it, after about 5 minutes it would refuse to do anything else and I would be forced to unplug it and plug it back in to get it to do anything. I tried again using my PC running Vista and it seemed to work a little better, however I couldn’t achieve a speed of greater than 272KB/sec transfer.
Once I got everything loaded across, it did become a bit nicer to use, I could navigate the interface of the device and read books. It reads all sorts of formats such as PDF, HTML, DOC and TXT (plus a heap of other assorted formats).
It renders pictures not too bad, see the example pictures below of the front cover of a book (Original vs BeBook).
As for reading books, it’s not too bad, I don’t mind sitting down and reading a book with it, it is easier than reading a normal book in that you don’t have to worry about bookmarking your page, or finding a position to lie in where you can have the book without being uncomfortable (a big issue when it comes to reading longer books). However it does feel a little less satisfying at the end of a book when you can’t say “I’ve read a book this thick”. It is also handy for reference guides, you can load them all onto the book and use the index function to skip to the section of the book you’re after without having to carry a huge book around with you.
Reading PDF files was a bit of a pain in that it offers only 3 zoom modes: Zoom Mode 1 resulted in it displaying the full page + margins making the text way too small to read, Zoom Mode 2 resulted in the page without any margins, still being a tad too small to read for some books and Zoom Mode 3 gave you bigger text meaning you had to turn the screen on its side, and seemed to split each page into 3 screens, 1 and 2 with text on it and the 3rd screen having very little text (in some cases no text, so you had to click next page twice, suffering the 1 second it takes to change pages).
It’s nice, I like it, but both the device features and the finishing touches by the BeBook company could be improved and I feel the $400 price tag is a little steep considering you can buy a full laptop for that much.
- The screen works in direct sunlight
- Very long lasting battery
- Easy to use
- Very Portable
- Allows you to use open file formats
- Sticker on the screen when I first bought it
- Slow and Buggy USB connection
- Lag when you’re changing pages
- Screen doesn’t display graphics very well
- No colour
- Some books display poorly (mainly PDF files)
If you think there’s something I missed or anything else you’d like to know about this, please leave a comment and I’ll investigate.
Edit: I get a lot of people saying “But what about the Amazon Kindle?” Sure it’s a nice piece of hardware, but the way they manage the books is disastrous. For example, they’re allowed to delete any books off your Kindle at their whim. See here for an example.